Enjoy Food

Ellie Krieger Says We Can Eat Healthy and Save Money At The Same Time — Here’s How

Howard Gensler  |  August 3, 2023

Preparing delicious (and nutritious!) meals doesn’t have to bust your budget. Ellie Krieger dishes on how to eat healthy while saving money.

Even though inflation is (thankfully) on its way down, food prices are still high. According to the Consumer Price Index, they’re up nearly 8% year-over-year, which means a simple shopping trip can feel like an unsolvable puzzle. How do you eat healthy and save money? Thankfully, Ellie Krieger has some ideas. She’s a former host of the Food Network’s “Healthy Appetite” and now the host and executive producer of “Ellie’s Real Good Food” on public TV.

Krieger is a registered dietician and nutritionist, the author of seven New York Times bestselling cookbooks, and the host of the podcast “One Real Good Thing.” We asked for her best tips on navigating grocery buying these days while trying to maintain healthy eating

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1. Buy In Season

Krieger says buying produce that’s currently in season can be a big money-saver.

“If you buy foods in season, they tend to be less expensive, because farmers need to sell the stuff quickly,” she says.

It’s easy to buy food you’re used to eating, which can make meal prep more manageable. But if you want to limit food spending, look for deals on foods that’s in season rather than what you’re comfortable with eating.

2. Substitute Your Proteins

Eating healthy doesn’t necessarily equate to spending more.

It is true that sometimes you go into the produce section and the more nutrient-dense foods are more expensive,” she says. “But it depends how we measure it. If we measure food in cost-per-calorie or cost-per-serving, then perhaps the more nutritious food tends to be a little higher priced. But if we measure food as cost-per-nutrient, then that’s a different shift in mentality.” 

Beans offer good nutrient value, Krieger says, but so do carrots, cabbage, tomatoes, zucchini, celery, onions, oranges, bananas, and even frozen or canned vegetables.

“Beans are certainly incredible,” she says. “They’re considered to be the number one longevity food [because] there are so many nutrients in them. And they’re easy and inexpensive. You don’t have to go with dried beans, you can go with canned beans. I have pretty much every variety of canned beans in my cupboard all the time.”

READ MORE: Pantry Items to Stock up on to Stretch Your Food Budget 

3. Avoid Food Waste

Eating what you buy is vital to making your food last and lowering the cost of what you spend at the store. On average, Americans waste 20-25% of the food in their kitchen every month. “That’s equivalent to bringing home five bags of groceries and throwing one straight into the garbage,” Krieger says. 

Instead, shop your pantry and freezer first and only add food to your list that you plan on cooking with soon. Once you’re out of something, you can add to your cart.

4. Embrace Simplicity

Krieger loves photographing foods and showing the world (usually via TV and Instagram) how to make food that’s as beautiful as it is healthy. One big reason? When we see something that looks delicious, we’re more willing to try it and broaden our food horizons. 

“I always say that the phone eats first,” she jokes. But TV and social media’s obsession with food has had a positive impact in opening up palates to new tastes. Now, she says, more people will try Korean Gojuchang Sauce because they’ve heard of it. They’ve seen TV chefs cook with it. On the downside, everyone is now a critic.

“My sister told me that she would make dinner and the whole family would be judging it as if they were on TV,” she says. “‘Oh, this has a bit too much spice or this has too much green pepper or something.’ And she’d say, ‘Shut up and cook it yourself.’ So, I think on one hand, TV and social media have helped. But they’ve also created this almost impossible level – that everything has to be so special and fabulous, and the food’s not really good unless you’re grinding veal bones into a sauce or something. And that’s just not true.”

In other words, simple is not only easy, it’s also delicious. “There’s no such thing as perfection,” she says. “We’re always going to be making mistakes. Even the best chefs make mistakes, and then you learn from them.” 

LISTEN: Hear what Ellie Krieger has to say and get access to all the past episodes of the HerMoney podcast. Listen wherever you stream your favorite podcasts.

5. Make Your Grocery List For Three Meals — That’s It

Krieger says having a list when you go to the market is incredibly important because stores are designed to inspire impulse buys. The most exciting displays are at eye-level, while the basics (and the generic brands) are often things you might have to reach or stoop for. The eye-level foods are also often the most processed and least nutritious.

When making your list, don’t think about a whole week’s worth of meals, but only three at a time.

“Even if I pick three meals, I’m going to have leftovers,” she says. “I love leftovers, so I plan for leftovers.”

Each week, Krieger says she typically makes three meals from scratch and has leftovers from two of them. Not only is this easier on the chef, it also helps with food waste reduction.

6. Swap Out Things That Are Cheaper (And Easier To Get) 

As home cooks try to up their game, they’re working with more complicated recipes and ingredients they may not use again. For example, sunchokes may be imperative to a fancy party dish, but they’re not necessarily a dinner staple. Krieger says not to fret if this comes up in one of your recipes.

“Let’s say there’s spinach in a recipe and you go to the store and the spinach is just astronomically expensive,” she says. “There are so many other greens, [like kale or swiss chard]. Maybe collard greens, they’re selling out of a truck on the corner, and they look amazing, and they’re inexpensive. If something calls for regular yogurt and you only have Greek yogurt, you can add a little milk to it to thin it out so that it resembles the texture of regular yogurt. Understanding substitutions is one really important thing.”

7. Store For the Long Haul

Another key is knowing how to store things. If Krieger uses half a jar of marinara sauce, for example, she’ll pour the rest into an ice cube tray, then pop out the frozen tomato cubes and keep them in a Ziplock in the freezer.

“If I want to make myself a little homemade French bread pizza, I pop out one of the cubes,” she says. “I have some mozzarella and bread in the freezer. I use my freezer all the time.”  

Herbs can be a great addition to most dishes, but sometimes we use very little and the rest are left to wilt. Krieger goes back to her freezer for preservation.

“Dried herbs are stronger in flavor than fresh herbs typically, so it’s one teaspoon of dried herbs for each tablespoon of fresh” she says. “Personally, I love fresh herbs. I use them all the time. But I always have leftovers and they do go bad quickly. Again, I go back to the freezer trick. I blend them up with a little bit of water or a little bit of oil. Sometimes I’ll blend them together like dill and parsley. And then I put them in ice cube trays and then I pop out one of those cubes and I have this beautiful little herb combo to throw into a dish.”

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